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BrownfieldAgNews reports:

Yesterday Smithfield Foods announced they were requesting their contract sow growers to convert their facilities from gestate

on stalls to group housing systems for pregnant sows. While Smithfield declined to comment further, they did direct Brownfield to speak with livestock industry consultant Temple Grandin, an animal science professor at Colorado State University.

Grandin says it's time for the industry to phase out gestation stalls. "And the real progressive people in the industry have pretty much said the train has left the station on this issue," she says.

"Two-thirds of the public consider keeping a sow, in a stall for most of her life where she cannot turn around is a degree of confinement that's just not ethical. That's shown up in two scientific surveys."

She says this is the beginning of changes to the hog industry. "When things change, there's all the sudden a point when there's a tipping point," she says.

"Then all the sudden things are going to change and things are going to change fast. Now sow stalls haven't quite gotten to the tipping point yet - but it's going to happen."

So why was Smithfield first? "Look at the map of the country and mark down where the major corporate offices are," she says.

"Smithfield's right next to DC. That has something to do with it. Heat softens steel. And then, it bends."

At the end of 2013, 54 percent of Smithfield company-owned operations had been converted to group housing systems.

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